*This post is not at all a specific reflection on my company or its authors. It’s an observance of the industry as a whole. And the trend I discuss here is not only prevalent in the publishing industry but in any industry you’ll ever scrutinize.*
Is there a difference between an author and a writer? Absolutely.
Without even looking the words up in the dictionary, I have decided that yes, there is a difference, and quite a resounding one, at that.
If you asked me, I would tell you that I’m a writer. I am not, however, an author. Though I haven’t looked the words up, I am pretty confident that author denotes (if not denotes, at least connotes) publication of some kind. I am not published. I have never been (credibly) published. Sure, I’ve got high school and college pieces in literary publications, but those don’t count. Nothing I’ve ever written can be found on a shelf, whether cyber or oak. Nothing I’ve ever written can legally or taxably be purchased. Therefore, I am not an author. But a writer I am, through and through.
Okay. So. We’ve established that writer does not automatically mean author. But here’s the real question: Does author automatically mean writer? And the answer to that is an equally resounding no!
The availability of resources to get onself published does not mean that one should be published. Just because one has something to say (or thinks he has something to say) does not mean it should be said, and if said, does not mean it should be heard by the masses.
The publishing industry is just like the rest of corporate America, and no, this is not meant to be a diatribe on capitalism, wealth, or Republicans. But the truth remains that those who have money and resources get published, and those who don’t, don’t. That’s why not all writers get to be authors, and it’s certainly the reason why not all authors can be called (by those with respectable taste for the industry and craft) writers.
Is that why I’ve never been published? Because I don’t have any money? No. Certainly not. I work for a company that will publish my work for free if I so desire. It’s one of the perks. I’ve never been published because I’ve never attempted to be published. I’ve never had the desire. I’ve never felt like I’ve had anything worth saying that people should have to pay money to hear (or read, rather). I suppose that’s why I blog. At least if I piss people off, they haven’t wasted any money, only time.
It definitely takes a certain amount of arrogance to let oneself be published, whether the process is self-sought or one is paid to do it. The bottom line is, every author who gets a book professionally published is sending the public a message that what he/she has to say is not only worth listening to but is worth paying money to get.
What if Hyde Park were run this way? What if the public speakers refused to stand on their soapboxes until the potential audiences paid cash at the gate? The crowds would have been smaller, and there are several famous people who never would have garnered the large audiences they did if this had been the case. So why are we forced to pay for books, which are just what public speeches are, except on bound paper and mass-produced? And why indeed are not all writers given the chance to be authors, and why are many authors such disgraces to the community and industry and art of writing itself?
This is a depressing trend, and there’s no end in sight. Even with the downturn in economy, the book market is still flooded with simpering, insentient drivel that deserves not even acknowledgment, let alone a monetary reward or even profit. (See any book published by a politician.)
So back to it. I’m a writer. Not an author. So what makes me qualified to be an editor? Well, just because I haven’t got the arrogance or financial resources to get myself published doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. But that still doesn’t convincingly explain why my authors should trust me. So listen up.
Any authors or would-be authors should look at it this way. Unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or John Grisham or Sara Gruen or heck, even Tina Fey, apparently, chances are, you’re digging into your pockets and drawing on your personal resources to get your book(s) published. You’re paying us, in other words (“us” being the publishers). But, and here’s the rub, the publisher is paying me to fix your book.
Let’s repeat the simple math on that one – you (the author) pay money to get your book published. The publisher turns around and pays me (the editor) to make your book good before it goes on sale. By logical default, that makes me the expert, the professional – the better writer, in laymen’s terms – and therefore, the one who is right in 99 percent of our disagreements. And that’s why you should not argue with me.
All of this is not to say that I’m completely humble. In fact, I’ve never claimed to be humble, and this post pretty much proves I’m not. Just because I don’t have the guts to ask people to pay me in order to read what I have to say doesn’t mean I don’t think highly of what I have to say. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be the writer and maintainer of multiple public blogs. I wouldn’t force my writings upon my friends and family as soon as they were completed. Of course I have something to say. And of course I think it’s worth hearing. And as soon as someone drops a contract in my lap without me having to do any legwork whatsoever, I’ll consider having my name (and words) printed and bound and put on a shelf accompanied by an unreasonable price. But until then . . . I’ll just complain about the fact that I’m a better writer than most authors out there (including Tina Fey).
P.S. Here’s more evidence of my non-humility: if you read this blog on a regular basis and don’t comment, please comment! I only do this for the comments. If I were doing it for posterity, I’d pull an Emily Dickinson and become a hermit and stash all my writings in a cedar chest to be found and revered upon my death. But I’m not humble. I want to be revered now!